‘How can a decent society look at an impoverished child – and then ignore their needs?’

UK church leaders are accusing the government of ‘deliberately ignoring’ the country’s poorest and most vulnerable children in changes to benefits for families.

The Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have come together to condemn the move which will be rolled out on Thursday under the Conservative’s flagship Universal Credit programme.

From today, 6 April, anyone with two or more children who has any more children will not be eligible for further Child Tax Credit support. In addition to the two child limit, the ‘family element’ of £545 per year will be abolished. Families with at least one child born before 6 April 2017 will continue to get the family element, but claims where the eldest child is born on or after 6 April will not receive the family element.

Under the Joint Public Issues Team the leaders of the four major churches, representing more than 800,000 people, said the benefit change would push more children into poverty.

‘We should be appalled that children’s needs are being deliberately ignored, no matter what the justification,’ said Grace Pengelly, Secretary for Church and Society under the United Reformed Church.

‘It is extraordinary that the Government has pressed ahead with this cut despite the fact that its own research says that it is not likely to achieve its aim of encouraging families to have fewer children.’

Revd Stephen Keyworth, of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, added the policy is a fundamental change to the benefit system because families will no longer have enough to live on.

‘The two-child limit recognises that larger families have additional needs, but chooses to ignore them,’ he said. ‘We urge the Government, even at this late stage, to hold to the founding principles of the benefit system and not deliberately ignore the needs of the most vulnerable children in society.’

Rachel Lampard, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, accused the Tories of taking ‘a knife to the social security safety net’ and warned the consequences for the children will ‘last for a life-time’.

The Church of Scotland’s Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the church and society council, added: ‘How can a decent society look at an impoverished child – and then ignore their needs?’

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